Monday, January 29, 2007

Copyright Permissions: A Publisher's Headache

Don't Quote Me: At The Publishing Pro, LLC, we firmly believe that publishing is fun. And easy. Mostly. That is, until we're asked, "Do I have to get permission to use this quote?" At that point, we throw up our hands and admit to the author-publisher that, well, maybe this aspect of publishing won't be a barrel of laughs. The best we can do is make it easier. A little. Here's the deal. If what you want to quote is in the "public domain," you don't need to obtain permission. In addition, if your use of the quotation is considered "fair use," you don't need to obtain permission either. If you go to the fair-use statute in the U.S. Code, you might think that it is not all that useful. It is rather general, purposely ambiguous, and meant to apply to any number of situations. The reality is that a legimitate copyright holder usually gets to determine whether your use of the material constitutes "fair use." The upshot is: the only safe road is to get written permission from the copyright holder to use the material the way you want to use it with the credit line (and payment, if any) that the copyright holder wants. Yuk! Typically, most authors and publishers are happy for the bit of publicity that comes from being quoted and credited, but you can't count on it. To be safe, you need to ask. If you decide, as many authors do, that you can bypass this step because you "know" there won't be a problem, you are on your own. The Publishing Pro, LLC

Thursday, January 11, 2007

PublishAmerica: POD with a Difference

Think Before You Sign Up: We had a client call us up, excited because she had been offered the opportunity to publish with PublishAmerica. She wanted to know if it was a good idea. PublishAmerica is an interesting outfit, one of those hybrid companies that combine aspects of traditional publishing with print-on-demand (POD) technology. Most of these outfits skew more to printing, charging a "set up fee" of several hundred dollars (mainly for setting the book into pages) and paying a "royalty" for each book sold and sent out to a customer. PublishAmerica skews more to traditional publishing in that it doesn't charge a set-up fee, boasting that it is a traditional publisher in that respect. In addition, it pays a royalty for books sold and even an advance on royalties (though the "advance" is usually a rather cute $1.00). We were intrigued with the lack of a setup fee, especially since they provide some copyediting and compose the book into pages, and wondered how they could do it. Here's how they make out. First, the copyediting and page composition services are quick and dirty. Second, unlike most other print-on-demand publishers, PublishAmerica buys all rights to a book for seven years, locking in potential sales, including author purchases at a very low discount of 20% (or 30% for high volume purchases). Third, they get authors to give them key contacts, who are then offered discounts on the books, effectively locking authors out of sales they might have gotten themselves. Fourth, they aren't picky about which authors they accept, because they can count on selling a couple hundred books to authors and their customers, enough to make a profit on each customer, and enough to do very, very well as a company, thanks to persuading thousands of authors to join the fold. We admire the model, but we advised our client to stay away. She can do better on her own. And so can you. The Publishing Pro, LLC.